In Memory Management – Focus on SAP HANA
Before jumping into in-memory and other fancy words, let us first understand the information world we live in. Information is everywhere. It is the relevancy that matters most for individuals and organizations. May be it is an individual’s bank transactions, airline reservations , product reviews, weather updates, global scenarios or an organization’s market penetration, competitors, economic climate, key performance indicators, customer preferences, what not. Everywhere it is the information which gives answers to questions like, what, when, how and why. These questions are a direct result of individual or organization’s thrust for more knowledge to become stronger and stronger for sustainability and advancement.
Having said that, let us focus on three points: Information availability, Information relevancy and effective Information usage. We are going thru an Information Explosion. Massive amounts of data is being created or generated on a daily basis around us. It could be human contribution and/or machine generated. A generic example of human contribution is social network data originating thru our popular friends like Facebook, twitter and YouTubes. Apart from this, organizations do generate transactional data as part of their business functions, contributions from academia and media. While capturing machine data, has been at a low key all these years, but have risen to a level of very important ingredient in the current day business intelligence for quicker decisions.
Talking about Information availability, how do organizations collect, organize these huge volumes of data. Over the years the storage costs have come down significantly resulting in less expensive storage solutions. However, there are two tricky questions which drive the other two points from above, Information relevancy and effective usage. Relevancy derives the selective data collection or procurement for the specific business functions the organizations looking for. Corporate spending always needs to answer the return on investment question. Whatever data is captured, maintained, organized how it is providing the Business intelligence value for winning over the competitors, customer satisfaction and business growth.
Effective usage of information revolves round the ease and timely availability of information. How to reduce the latency between information requirement and information availability? One answer for this is having a scenario where the information is available in real-time fashion. What does that mean? Information is available for decision making as it happens. Sounds amazing. But how? It needs systems with robust storage, retrieval and analytical capabilities. We did talk about inexpensive storage options; however, effective retrieval is always constrained with speed of disc operations. This lag can be addressed using in-memory storage for faster retrieval. The last piece in the puzzle is how to consume information in a user friendly manner. This needs a set of user interface applications with flexible and rich visualization capabilities.
Several vendors are in the market place for providing the applications and tools for fulfilling these current day organizational needs. SAP has come up with a solution called HANA (High Performance Analytical Appliance) which is built on in-memory capabilities supplemented with a set of peripheral tools for ETL (Extraction, Transformation, Loading), data replication and analytics visualization.
What is HANA? It is an application platform comprising of in-memory database and flexible development environment.
For a basic level understanding, it is a replacement to the traditional relational databases (RDBMS) such as Oracle, DB2 and SQL Server. All the data will be residing in-memory which provides high performance data retrieval compared to traditional I/O from the disk based RDBMS. This results in a significant improvement in the transactions happening in the application.
Next level of understanding is applications logic running in HANA environment, means pushing the application logic to memory will enhance the performance on the overall application processes.
Third level of understanding is using HANA for creating database type of applications using custom tables and processing logic. This opens gates for marriage between enterprise applications data and non-enterprise/custom data on the HANA side, which has been the biggest challenge over the years with large organizations. This is the scenario where enterprise data can be combined with other sources of data such social networks, machine not jeopardizing the relevancy.
Finally, SAP has opened the HANA as an application development environment thru XS engine, where organizations can build their own applications using the rich UI5 and Java capabilities. In this scenario, applications can leverage enterprise as well as non-enterprise data available in the system.
Globalization, tough market and economic conditions naturally drive organizations to keep on finding better ways to strengthen their business intelligence competitive advantage. SAP HANA can help in bringing together the information explosion and faster and flexible information availability for building insights, so that they are equipped for taking advantage of favorable market conditions, customer trends, price fluctuations and other factors that directly influence the bottom line.----Sundar Dittakavi